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Monday, February 23, 2009

Antiviolence protest in Beirut exposes the hypocrisy of the Lebanese society!

Yesterday nearly 150 people gathered in Sodeco square in Beirut in order to protest against the violence inflicted to social minorities in Lebanon (children, women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders). Here minorities don't indicate the number but the degree of marginalization and injustice suffered by a group.
The protest was called upon by Helem- a lebanese NGO defending the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders -in reaction to the brutal beating of two men in Sassine square in Beirut under the pretext that they were seen having sex! This happened in front of the bypassers and every single person who was on the scence. Hence Helem could not stand silent before this medieval act, and along with other associations (TYMAT, KAFA, Mouvement Social, etc.) called to an antiviolence sit in.
This event was unique since it was dominated by Helem members and supporters, hence people of different sexual orientations were present, and said in public that the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders should be secured in the Lebanese society. In a way they showed their pride of their sexual orientation regardless of the intolerence of the Lebanese society that rejects them. In short they were saying: we are gay and proud! It is not easy to publically announce that in an intolerent and traditional society! Hence this event is unique in the Arab world were sexual orientations other then heterosexuality is seen as a crime and as an illness that should be dealt with.

Nevertheless, the dominance of pro-gay rights slogans should not prevent us from seeing the larger picture of the sit-in. The Lebanese society deals violently with minorities, but in the same way it claims advancing liberal values, openness and resemblence to the occidental culture. This contradiction within the society was revealed during the demonstration where only 50 people were present and officials or public figures were totally absent. In fact, the Lebanese society inflicts much suffering to weak social groups which we can call minorities: we have a systemic injustice regarding foreing female domestic workers (from Sri Lanka, Philippine and others) through a staggering exploitation that should be called neo-slavery, systemic racism and empoverishment towards Palestinians who live in concentration camps, violence against women (domestic violence and sexual exploitation), violence against children, racism and exploitation towards foreign workers, and, of course, violence against gays and lesbians who are persecuted and seen in the eyes of laws as criminals because they have sex which is "against nature"!
Beyond the facade of liberal values, the Lebanese society still deals with those who are seen as "deviant" in a violent, brutal and medieval manner, thus revealing its incapability of tolerence. While the Lebanese always brag about their community values according to which no one is left alone, it rejects each invidual who seem different in sexual orientation, colour or nationality!
This sit-in should evolve and crystallize into a social movement regrouping those "minorities" in order to force the authorities and society to respect them as they are, and to ensure that their rights are secured by the law like any other citizen!


  1. I find there to be an interesting conflict in the region for Feminists and Human Rights activists alike. They are all criticized for obstructing the collectivist/Islamic values in which Lebanese and Arab culture in many ways was breed. More interesting is the current trend of people reading history in such a way that opens up a space for the voices of Homosexuals and women alike. These historic readings reveal that the presence and acceptance of sexual difference existed in the region prior to colonial times and that in effect many of the issues we are combating now are products of remaining imperial influences. (A good example is abortion, which prior to imperialism was legal, and post imperialism became illegal...even though in Islamic tenants it is not haram "sinful" to abort as long as it is prior to the third month of pregnancy.)

  2. correction: not 50! there was up to 150 protestors... i was there!
    it was a good protest... u should have seen the faces of the security men who were there!
    many people stopped and started asking about the reason of the protest and discussing with some of us! which was great..
    btw did u c m in the video?! :P with my famous hat at the end! :D

  3. Correction done! thank you!
    I would have loved to be there and see their reactions!
    Of course i saw you walaw wa hal yakhfa l kamar :D hehe, it was in the beginning also!


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